All in the Family

A summary of what's in the major U.S. newspapers.
Aug. 4 2002 6:47 AM

All in the Family

The Washington Post leads with brain drain at the FBI—four more senior execs left in July, and the paper says the stream of departures is hindering the director's push to realign the organization to fight terrorism. The New York Times leads with the decline in "direct foreign investment." The amount of money foreigners sank into acquiring or starting a new company in the U.S. plummeted last year and is falling even further thus far in 2002. The Los Angeles Times looks at how the economic doldrums are hitting higher education—donations to colleges are expected to drop this year for the first time since 1974, and endowments are shrinking as the stock market tanks. Despite their waning endowments, the colleges the LAT interviews say they're not cutting programs or staff—yet. Instead, they're postponing projects like new buildings.

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"Nearly all of the FBI's two dozen top executives," have been replaced since Robert Mueller took over the agency last fall, according to the WP. Many are burned out and leaving for lucrative jobs in the private sector. Additionally, the recruiting push by other law enforcement agencies, particularly the Transportation Security Administration, makes it harder for the FBI to find new blood.

The NYT says that economists were hoping for a rebound in foreign investment, which peaked at $301 billion in 2000 and fell to $124 billion in 2001, but it's continued to drop instead. Overseas companies, many of them burned by unrewarding and costly expansion in the 90s, now seem as skittish about expanding as their American counterparts.

The NYT off-leads with an exploration of how legal battles in the wake of the 9/11-related detentions are redefining "the delicate balance between individual liberties and national security." Specifically, prosecutors and defenders are battling on three fronts: whether people being held for immigration violations should be tried in secret, whether "material witnesses" should be held to give grand jury testimony, and whether suspects classified as "enemy combatants" have the right to legal counsel and a "chance to challenge their detentions before a civilian judge."

The WP says that lax work safety regulations plus a deteriorating health-care system equals an increasingly dangerous situation for Chinese workers. In Guangdong province, a study found that 96% of businesses were in violation of health standards, and the number of workers getting sick is rising by 70% a year. The article profiles a shoe factory worker whose nervous system was ravaged by a toxin in the glue used at her plant.

Zimbabwe's president is fixing to expel nearly 3,000 white farmers who have refused to surrender their land to the government. As a result, large swathes of fertile land sit untilled while famine threatens some six million Zimbabweans. Some observers say President Mugabe is punishing the farmers for backing his opponent in last March's suspect presidential elections, while others feel he wants to go down in history "as the revolutionary who returned the land to his impoverished people."

The Peace Corps might not be as safe as it sounds, according to the NYT. Assaults on volunteers abroad have more than doubled over the past decade. A new study by the General Accounting Office says that the organization's five-year employment limit for supervisors (a measure intended to keep the Corps innovative) might be to blame. The story doesn't explain why this practice would make it more likely for a volunteer to get beat up.

The NYT claims it's becoming "increasingly common" for the families of Congressional leaders to work as lobbyists. Trent Lott's son and Tom Daschle's wife, for example, work as lobbyists. The story's only evidence that this phenomenon is on the rise, however, is that Joshua Hastert, son of speaker of the House Denny Hastert, joined a small high-tech industry lobbying firm this summer.

The WP kicks off a five-part series about the nationwide decline of political parties by investigating partisan apathy in Minnesota. One source, described by the paper as an "easygoing college student" (he's 29!) says "Party stuff is silly," and "Who the hell cares who Grandma voted for?" The paper says both parties have become so obsessed with courting the left- and right-wing fringe that they've neglected and alienated the majority in the center.

A delightful piece in the WP Style section hails the return of Parkay Margarine's talking tub ("butter… Parkaaaay"), which it takes as a sign that Americans are again embracing the cynicism and ennui of the Watergate era. Like that treacherous tub, the article is best left to speak for itself: "In hindsight, this was what it was like to live back then, when cynicism ran so deep that spreadables worked as a national metaphor for mistrust. Even the butter was lying. Subtextually, the tub contained Nixon."

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